U.S. Weighs Options to Protect Americans in Iraq from Iran
- Steve Holland (Reuters
Top U.S. national security officials agreed on Wednesday on a proposed range of options aimed at deterring attacks on U.S. military or diplomatic personnel in Iraq, a senior administration official told Reuters.
On Sunday, rockets landed in Baghdad's Green Zone compound, targeting the U.S. Embassy and causing minor damage.
U.S. Central Command said that Sunday's attack by 21 rockets was "almost certainly" conducted by an Iranian-backed militia.
U.S. Earmarks $250 Million for Israeli-Palestinian Peacebuilding
The U.S. Senate on Monday passed bipartisan legislation to provide $250 million over a five-year period for peacebuilding measures between Israel and the Palestinians.
The funds will be used to expand peace and reconciliation programs in the region, as well as to support projects to bolster the Palestinian economy, said the Alliance for Middle East Peace.
Why Hanan Ashrawi Resigned from the PLO
- Yoni Ben-Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi resigned from the PLO Central Council following Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' rejection of her request to become the head of the negotiations team with Israel after Dr. Saeb Erekat's death.
Ashrawi began her career in the PLO as a spokesperson for the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Conference in 1991.
Syria behind Massive Amphetamine Seizure in Italy
- Quentin Sommerville (BBC News
Italian authorities have seized more than $1 billion worth of the amphetamine Captagon, produced in Syria.
Captagon is used recreationally across the Middle East and is also taken by fighters who say it gives them a feeling of invincibility.
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UN Condemned Israel 17 Times in 2020, Compared to 6 Times for Rest of World Combined
(Times of Israel
The UN General Assembly on Monday adopted two more resolutions criticizing Israel, bringing 2020's total to 17 resolutions against the Jewish state versus 6 resolutions singling out any other country.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said, "The UN's assault on Israel with a torrent of one-sided resolutions is surreal. It's absurd that in the year 2020...more than 70% were focused on one single country: Israel."
"Make no mistake: the purpose of the lopsided condemnations is to demonize the Jewish state....It violates the UN Charter's guarantee of equal treatment to all nations, large and small."
"We note that the UK and EU states like France, Germany and Spain voted Yes to more than 2/3 of the UNGA resolutions singling out Israel in 2020."
Israel's Peace Deals Show How Abnormal Israel's Treatment Has Been
- Seth J. Frantzman (Newsweek
The anti-Israel crusade of Muslim countries over the last 70 years has simply been an anti-Semitic policy.
Acceptance of the isolation of Israel and erasure of Jewish history in the Middle East has been an open wound afflicting the whole region. It should never have happened.
The terrible war between India and Pakistan in 1948 didn't result in dozens of countries not recognizing India or pretending that Hindus don't exist.
Only when it comes to Israel was it taken for granted that people will debate its very existence.
Islamic State Continues to Threaten Syrian Regime
- Sultan al-Kanj (Al-Monitor
Military operations are ongoing in the Syrian desert between Syrian regime forces and the militias loyal to it, and the Islamic State in the Aleppo-Hama-Raqqa triangle and, to a lesser extent, in the deserts of Deir Ez-Zor and Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Dec. 4.
Regime forces are doing their best to limit ISIS activity, with Russian support, through intense airstrikes.
Khalil al-Muqdad, a Qatar-based researcher on jihadist
groups, said ISIS is targeting regime convoys and Iranian and allied militias.
Turkish Defense Industry Risks Big Damage from U.S. Sanctions
- Metin Gurcan (Al-Monitor
The new U.S. sanctions against Turkey over its purchase of Russian air defense systems stand to inflict heavy damage on the Turkish defense industry.
The sanctions include a ban on U.S. export licenses to Turkey's defense industries, which remain reliant on imports from the U.S.
In 2019 Turkey's defense industries purchased $1.4 billion from the U.S., mostly raw materials and semi-processed products, accounting for 45% of their total imports.
Israel: Ready to Help India Defend Itself
- Rezaul H. Laskar (Hindustan Times-India
Israeli ambassador Ron Malka told the Hindustan Times
in an interview:
"Since we have a strong friendship, whatever India needs from Israel to defend itself, we are there and available to India, because this is how we manage our friendships and especially a precious friendship like with India."
"I have to stress that we are not against anyone...but we are in favor of India...and we also trust...that India knows how to manage its affairs wisely....We are working on a regular basis with India, sharing research and development, information and experience."
Pakistani Cleric Calls to Recognize Israel
- Dean Shmuel Elmas (Israel Hayom
Pakistani political and religious leader Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani announced Saturday that he supports recognition of Israel, British-Pakistani writer Noor Dahri reported.
"Educated Muslims need to understand that the Quran and history prove to us that the Land of Israel belongs only to the Jews. King David built the house of God in Jerusalem for the Israelis and not for the Palestinians,"
Israel Air Force Appoints Druze Colonel to Head Drone Warfare Unit
- Lilach Shoval (Israel Hayom
Col. Awad Suleiman was named on Tuesday to head the Israel Air Force's Drone Warfare Unit.
In September 2020, another Druze officer, Lt.-Col. A. was appointed commander of the Air Force's Shaldag commando unit.
In June 2019, Lt. G. became the Air Force's first Druze Israeli pilot.
UAE Culture Magazine Highlights Israeli Fashion
- Itay Yaakov (Ynet News
The upcoming issue of L'Official Arabia,
a prominent fashion and culture magazine based in Dubai, is dedicated entirely to Israeli fashion and features Israeli model Yael Shelbia on the cover.
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
- Morocco, Israel Officially Establish Diplomatic Ties - Safaa Kasraoui
Morocco, the U.S., and Israel on Tuesday signed a joint declaration to officialize Rabat's decision to re-establish diplomatic relations, marking the opening of a new era of relations. Direct flights between Morocco and Israel are authorized, and the countries are to promote bilateral economic cooperation.
(Morocco World News)
See also White House Aide Jared Kushner on First Israeli Commercial Flight to Morocco - Dion Nissenbaum
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner flew Tuesday aboard the first direct commercial Israeli flight from Israel to Morocco. In Rabat, Kushner and his White House team and Israeli officials met with Moroccan leaders to sign diplomatic and economic agreements between the U.S., Israel and Morocco.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also Israel's Security Adviser Thanks Moroccans in Local Arabic Dialect - Safaa Kasraoui
Israel's Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat stunned Moroccans on Tuesday when he spoke in fluent Darija, the Moroccan Arabic dialect, as a sign of coexistence. He is from a family of immigrants to Israel of Moroccan origin.
(Morocco World News)
- Exports to U.S. from Israeli Communities in West Bank to Be Labeled "Product of Israel"
U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday published regulations stating that products for export to the U.S. produced in Israeli communities in the West Bank are to be labeled "Made in Israel." Goods produced in areas of the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority maintains authority shall be marked as products of the "West Bank," while goods produced in Gaza shall be marked as products of "Gaza." (U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
- In West Bank, Palestinians Prepare for Post-Abbas Power Struggle
In Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, some residents are preparing weapons for a potential power struggle when President Mahmoud Abbas, 85, finally leaves the stage.
In Balata, outside of Nablus, walls are plastered with posters picturing the "martyr" Hatem Abu Rizq, 35, who was killed on Oct. 31 in intra-Palestinian violence. "He was killed by shots from the Palestinian Authority," says his mother.
Exiled former Fatah Gaza security chief Mohammed Dahlan has been mentioned as a possible successor to Abbas. The PA's governor of Nablus, Ibrahim Ramadan, said "Hatem Abu Rizq was with Dahlan," adding that 14 members of the PA security forces have been wounded in attacks in Balata. Emad Zaki, who heads a committee that oversees services for Balata residents, said, "There are more weapons today in Balata than during the second intifada. There are rocket launchers, Kalashnikovs and M16 (assault rifles)." (AFP-France 24)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Israel to Enter Third Lockdown on Sunday as Coronavirus Cases Surge
Israel will enter a third lockdown on Sunday for at least two weeks as the number of new Covid-19 cases has surged to over 3,000 per day. The number of active cases was 29,997, with 497 patients in serious condition, including 117 on ventilators. 3,150 have died. Though Israel began mass vaccinations this week, health experts have warned it will take 2-3 months for the inoculations to start mitigating the pandemic.
(Times of Israel)
- Israel's Knesset Fails to Pass Budget by Deadline, Triggering New Elections - Gil Hoffman
Israel's Knesset failed to pass a budget for 2020 before a Tuesday deadline, automatically triggering new elections to be held on March 23, 2021. (Jerusalem Post)
- Palestinian Opens Fire on Police near Temple Mount in Jerusalem - Judah Ari Gross
A Palestinian from Qabatiya in the West Bank opened fire at Israel Police officers near an entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City on Monday. Police returned fire, killing the shooter.
(Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
- Iran Seeks to Create a Direct Front Against Israel from Southern Syria - Yaakov Lappin
A new report by Maj. (res.) Tal Beeri of the Alma Research and Education Center exposes efforts by the Iranian-led Shi'ite axis to build civilian support networks throughout southern Syria. Iran views a civilian infrastructure as a foundation for building a military-attack infrastructure against Israel. This effort received a green light from Abu Al-Fadl Al Tabatabai, a personal adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who visited the area in 2018.
"The Iranian-led Shi'ite axis sees southern Syria as a strategic area of paramount importance...enabling the creation of a direct Iranian front against Israel from southern Syria," the report said.
The civilian foothold begins with creating active links with the local population in order to create a dependence of the population on elements of the Shi'ite axis. This dependence produces sympathy. This sympathy enables the free action of Shi'ite axis elements inside and outside of the local population. The civilian entrenchment efforts are taking place in the Quneitra and Dara'a districts, with some additional efforts underway in the Druze Sweida region, although those activities are running into more local resistance.
Beeri spent 20 years as an intelligence officer in the Israel Defense Forces specializing in Lebanon and Syria. He said, "They want to copy the Lebanese model from south Lebanon to southern Syria. The only difference between these two areas is that in south Lebanon, most of the population is Shi'ite - this is the base of Hizbullah. In southern Syria, most of the population is Sunni."
But most of the local population is merely interested in survival, and Iran can help them in exchange for their assistance and support for its military activities. The report detailed the civilian services mushrooming in the area under Iranian sponsorship, including health, religion, education and relief agencies. A process of converting local Sunnis to the Shi'ite faith is underway, as well as an effort to resettle the families of Shi'ite militiamen in southern Syria. (JNS)
See also Report: The Civilian Establishment of the Iranian-Led Shiite Axis in Southern Syria - Maj. (res.) Tal Beeri (Alma Research and Education Center)
- Understanding Israel's War in the "Grey Zone" - Jonathan Spyer
For some years now, Israel has been engaged in an ongoing, usually silent, "grey zone" war with Iran, a country committed to Israel's destruction. This campaign, and the way it is fought, is a natural partner to the diplomatic moves that have recently produced "normalization" agreements between Israel, Morocco, Sudan, the UAE and Bahrain. The task facing Israeli strategists has been to develop a means of diplomacy and a simultaneous means of war. What this looks like in practice has been on display in recent weeks.
The purpose of Israel's current, ongoing military campaign is to hinder Iran's ongoing efforts to develop a nuclear weapon. It also seeks to reverse the Iranian project to create an extensive infrastructure of support across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and then to embed advanced weapons systems directed at Israel within that infrastructure.
The air force is engaged on a weekly basis in disrupting Iranian efforts at consolidating its infrastructure in Syria.
This ongoing campaign has succeeded in setting back the Iranian effort by "80-85%," former Israeli national security advisor Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror told me recently.
Israel's approach to conflict is intended to minimize fallout and accompanying noise, while bolstering the atmosphere of security and normality that makes a flourishing 21st-century society feasible amidst a troubled and strife-torn neighborhood. The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.
- Gen. Amidror: It Would Be a Huge Mistake to Drop U.S. Leverage on Iran - Yonah Jeremy Bob
Former Israel National Security Council chief Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror warned Monday against the incoming U.S. administration wasting the sanctions leverage it has against Iran.
He explained that President-elect Joe Biden will enter office with a major advantage. "It would be a huge mistake not to use this leverage made by the previous administration, only because it was built by the Trump administration."
"If this administration will make it clear when coming in that it will not go back to square one - that when he [Biden] spoke about a new and stronger agreement, he meant they [Iran] will have to reconsider their whole policy, this might succeed. If, on the contrary, the next administration will [remove] the sanctions and say 'let's go back to the old agreement, and then we will negotiate a new one, taking care of all of the loopholes of the old agreement'...there is no chance." (Jerusalem Post)
- There Was No "Human Error" in Iran's Shootdown of Ukraine Airlines Flight - Terry Glavin
On January 8, 2020, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down by two missiles shortly after takeoff from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC). All 176 passengers and crew were killed, including 55 Canadians and another 81 permanent residents, students and others with direct ties to Canada. Up until today, the Iranian government has been lying through its teeth about what happened. For three full days, the regime insisted that something must have gone wrong with the plane and only admitted to shooting down the plane when it became absolutely impossible to deny. And they've been covering up and withholding evidence ever since.
On Tuesday, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Ralph Goodale released a 76-page report on the Canadian government's response to the disaster, which finds no room for mere "human error," but instead points at "indications of incompetence, recklessness and wanton disregard for innocent human life." The International Civil Aviation Organization assigns investigative responsibilities to the countries where the disaster has occurred. This would be fine, if Iran were a normal country. Iran isn't a normal country. It's a theocratic police state that isn't even accountable to its own people. (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
See also Report: Flight PS752 - The Long Road to Transparency, Accountability and Justice (Global Affairs Canada)
See also Canadian Report Underscores Iran's Culpability in Downing of Ukrainian Airliner - Toby Dershowitz and Dylan Gresik (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
- Iranian Islamic Ethics Professor: Executed Journalist Ruhollah Zam Is a Martyr, Khamenei Is Responsible
Iranian ethics professor Ayatollah Mahmoud Amjad said in a video he uploaded to his Instagram account on December 15, 2020: "Our problem as [religious scholars], who don turbans, is that we think we are the chosen people and that everything we say is the word of God and the Prophet, so people must listen to us without hesitation. This is a huge mistake."
"Silence in the face of oppression is betrayal. So many crimes and evil actions have been perpetrated. People tell me not to call [journalist] Ruhollah [Zam] a martyr. No! I refer to him as the martyr Ruhollah, and so should you....I refer to everyone who has been killed over the last 40 years as a martyr."
"We are hated by God, by the Prophet, by the Quran, and by everyone, yet we think we are superior....All the blood that has been spilled and all the people who have been killed since [the election riots in] 2009 - Mr. Khamenei, you are responsible!...We hope that he truly repents, and may his repentance result in people having freedom of expression, in people living in prosperity, and in the renewal of the constitution." (MEMRI)
- For Biden, the Same Obstacles Remain to Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Lawrence J. Haas
President-elect Biden has signaled he does not plan to focus on Israeli-Palestinian peace at the outset of his term. He faces far more pressing global challenges, and he probably recognizes that the same obstacles to peace that bedeviled his predecessors remain. They include a Palestinian side that largely rejects the reality of Israel, and an Israeli side that feels burned by Palestinian leaders who have rejected numerous offers of statehood and, at those moments, opted for more violence.
Perhaps he also recognizes what recent peace deals have confirmed: Israeli-Palestinian peace never was the key to broader Arab-Israeli peace. The writer is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.
- The Battle for Washington's Foreign Policy Has Begun - Lenny Ben-David
In recent weeks, certain U.S. groups and think tanks have embarked on a well-funded and organized campaign to re-embrace Iran and the Palestinians while distancing from Israel and Arab states that seek to normalize relations with Israel. Yet Congressional leadership from both sides of the political aisle is expected to protect the U.S.-Israel relationship since Congress represents the pro-Israel American people.
This article reviews the major individuals and organizations involved in the current effort to reshape and reorient U.S. foreign policy. The writer, former Deputy Chief of Mission at Israel's Embassy in Washington, served for 25 years in senior posts in AIPAC in Washington and Jerusalem.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- The Collapse of Palestinian Grand Strategy - Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman
The Palestinian quest to isolate Israel and boycott it in the international community, and thus force it into surrender, has failed. Foundational aspects of the regional order have changed, with a breakthrough towards peace and normalization with Arab countries. Moreover, the Arab League (under Egypt's guidance) refused to consider the Palestinian complaint against "normalizers."
The Palestinians hope that a Biden administration will usher in an era where they can pursue again a strategy of isolating Israel. Latching on to such hopes is an indication of the Palestinians' lack of realism. American political dynamics do not sustain such Palestinian expectations.
While pressures from academia and the progressive left are matters of some concern, the firm foundations of support for Israel are still strong on both sides of the aisle. It is also still possible to rely on the deeply ingrained support for Israel among at least 2/3 of all Americans.
The writer, vice president of JISS, held senior posts in IDF Military Intelligence for over 20 years.
(Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security)
- Hizbullah's Global Trail of Criminality and Corruption - Baria Alamuddin
Many essential medicines are unobtainable in mainstream Lebanese hospitals and pharmacies. Yet in Hizbullah-land, a parallel system of health facilities exists where a full spectrum of cheap, Iran-imported drugs are readily available.
With its system of parallel ATMs from which dollars are miraculously available, parallel schools, parallel banks, parallel economies, parallel systems for paying salaries - Hizbullah is profiteering from Lebanon's demise.
Hizbullah demands continued control over Lebanon's finance, health and transport ministries precisely because of the multiple opportunities for criminal gain. Lebanon's airport, ports and borders are nodes for smuggling arms and narcotics. Lebanese financial institutions have been sanctioned for laundering funds for Iran. Hizbullah was designated one of the top five global criminal organizations by the U.S. State Department in 2018.
Lebanese emigre clans operate vast narcotics networks embedded along the Venezuelan coast, primarily targeting the U.S. Hizbullah's spiritual advisers during the 1990s ruled that the narcotics trade was "morally acceptable if the drugs are sold to Western infidels as part of a war against the enemies of Islam."
I've always been proud to be Lebanese, but it's a source of intense shame when the world sees our beautiful nation hijacked by Hizbullah's corruption, criminality and terrorism. The writer is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
- Human Rights Watch's Anti-Israel Agenda - Gerald M. Steinberg
Human Rights Watch (HRW) was founded as Helsinki Watch by the late Robert
Bernstein in 1978, and has grown to become one of the most influential
international NGOs active in this arena. However, the organization and its leaders have been strongly criticized, including by its own founder, Bernstein, for acting against its original mission, and for deep-seated political and ideological bias.
The influence of HRW is reflected in its intense involvement in the UN and the International Criminal Court. Its Israel-focused activities are fundamentally different from its role on other topics and countries on HRW's agenda, and contrast strongly with norms of universality and political neutrality.
The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is president of NGO Monitor and professor emeritus of political studies at Bar-Ilan University. (Israel Affairs)
- U.S. Envoy: Boycotting Israel Is Anti-Semitic - Ali Harb
Elan Carr, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, told the Heritage Foundation on Friday: "Boycotts, isolation, de-legitimization, that's not the way you get peace. That's not the way you solve any conflict in the world. And so those who want to boycott Israel in effect are isolating Israel, and that's not coexistence. That's not peace. That's not how you get to a better world."
"Let's talk about anti-Semitism. Why is it that we say very clearly now, BDS is a manifestation of anti-Semitism? Then we define BDS, by the way, as boycotts not only of Israel, but of territories that Israel controls. Because typically these boycotters of Israel don't boycott anybody else. And you know, there are horrendous human rights abusers in the world. Israel is not one of them."
When "you focus on the one Jewish state...target Israel for unique opprobrium and sanctions and boycotts, well that's anti-Semitism, pure and simple....We've been very clear that hatred of the Jewish state is hatred of the Jewish people." (Middle East Eye-UK)
- Israeli Study Shows Existing Drug May Reduce Covid-19 Severity - Nathan Jeffay
Hebrew University researchers say an existing drug significantly downgrades the intensity of Covid-19.
Fenofibrate, a generic medication to reduce lipids known as triglycerides, which is among the most prescribed drugs in the U.S., appeared to give patients an "astounding" advantage in fighting the disease, said Prof. Yaakov Nahmias.
"This is a cheap and widely available drug with minimal side effects, and we were excited to find that all the main biomarkers indicate that it reduces the severity of Covid-19."
13 coronavirus patients who regularly took Fenofibrate to address their lipid levels had quicker-than-expected recovery from coronavirus-induced pneumonia. Nahmias said
there is a "very high" chance that Fenofibrate will become a common treatment for coronavirus within a few months. (Times of Israel)
See also Research Demostrates Efficacy of Existing Drug in Treating Covid-19 (Hebrew University of Jerusalem-Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- Polish Society Shunned Jewish Survivors Returning from Death Camps - J.P. O'Malley
Polish historian Lukasz Krzyzanowski has written Ghost Citizens: Jewish Return to a Postwar City, focusing on the industrial city of Radom as a case study to tell the larger story of Jews in postwar Poland. He told the Times of Israel, "Anti-Semitism didn't suddenly appear in Poland with Hitler. There was a distance between the Polish Jewish and Christian populations before the war. But during the Holocaust this distance turned into a chasm, and it's stayed like this ever since."
Radom Jews faced numerous threats in their daily life in the immediate postwar period. They were regularly confronted with theft, abuse and violence from Polish citizens. Anti-Semitism was rampant in the police and security services of Radom, and across Poland more broadly.
(Times of Israel)
- The Israeli organization "Breaking the Silence" (BtS) published a study in December 2020 highly critical of Israel's transportation infrastructure projects in the West Bank. However, the study ignores the relevant provisions in the Oslo Accords signed by the PLO and Israel.
- This study is meant to delegitimize Israel's presence in the territories and undermine an agreed negotiation process. It cannot be divorced from those international and national non-governmental organizations and member states of the European Union that advocate an identical hostile political line to Israel and finance and support Breaking the Silence. Here is a list of those who supported the study financially.
- The study falsely assumes that the territory belongs to the Palestinians. In fact,
Israel's entry into the territories in 1967 after being attacked by its neighbors, and its subsequent control and administration of the territories, were in accordance with the relevant requirements of international law.
- Occupation of territory during the course of an armed conflict is not illegal. To the contrary, it is an accepted and recognized legal state-of-affairs. Pending a negotiated resolution of the conflict, Israel committed itself to abide by international humanitarian and legal norms, and such administration has been under strict judicial supervision by Israel's Supreme Court.
- There exists no binding international determination that the territories are Palestinian. Similarly,
according to the 1995 Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the permanent legal and political status of the territories has yet to be negotiated.
- International law enables the legitimate utilization by the authority administering the territory of non-privately-owned land and property, pending the permanent settlement of the dispute. The Oslo Accords enable both sides to conduct planning, zoning, and construction activities in the areas under their respective jurisdiction and thus to construct roads and transportation infrastructure.
The writer is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and heads its International Law Program. He is former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.
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